One of my latest reads wasn’t m/m and wasn’t romance–although there was a brief, unexpected scene with two men, and although a romantic relationship helps drive the story.
The Night Inspector by Frederick Busch is set in New York City right after the Civil War. The protagonist, WIlliam Bartholomew, was a Union sharpshooter who had half his face blown away in the war and now wears a mask in public. He’s a complex and fascinating character, somehow both coldblooded and sympathetic. He befriends Herman Melville, who’d achieved fame with Moby-Dick and other books but by 1867 had seen his literary light fade.
The writing is not easy to read. It’s complex and many-layered, written much in the style of the mid 19th century. The scenes often jump time from 1867 to the Civil War or to Bartholomew’s youth. And what’s described is often very ugly. But the writing is nevertheless beautiful, and it truly drew me into the story and setting.